The Glass Menagerie

Tennessee Williams
Le Broq Theatre Company
Sweet Grassmarket

Glass Menagerie is the most autobiographical of all Williams’s plays. We know this as he has given his name to the featured character.

Tom lets us know before any of the action starts that this is a memory play told from his perspective in the fog of years and miles. His mother, Amanda, is based on his own mother (Edwina) and sister, Laura, on his own sister (Rose).

We are at the end of World War II. Amanda’s husband, who worked for the telephone company, fell in love with long distance (Williams’s love of word pictures). Tom is struggling to be free of Amanda’s grip whilst battling his guilt over the care and future of Laura.

Amanda wants the best for her children: secure futures. Laura, who has shyly abandoned her secretarial course, will have only a marriage in her future. Amanda hopes that Tom will climb the corporate ladder as his future is her future. What she does not yet know is that Tom has the Merchant Marines in his future.

This is St. Louis, the South, at the edge of poverty. Williams’s South. Amanda lives in the past, a make-believe past that includes parties and gentlemen callers. She lives this fantasy, holds tightly on to it, which is difficult with the crippled and failing Laura and the rebellious Tom. As a final gesture of charity for Amanda and Laura, Tom has invited a “gentleman caller” which proves disastrous and a catalyst for Tom’s exit.

All of this means that the company taking this project on must master the era, society and characters in Williams’s past.

Let us start with accepting that this is probably a British school production; the actress playing Amanda is probably the same age as actors playing Tom, Laura and Jim. Let’s assume that anything approaching an American accent is acceptable. Let’s assume that the director/designers are trying to create a realist environment on the head of a pin. Let’s assume that any costume looking appropriate for the characters is acceptable.

Assuming all that, the very least that we require from the director (and cast) is do the requisite research on Williams’s life, the locale, the time period and the behaviour, relationship and interaction of the characters.

Sadly, this has not happened. The advert claims “this production is keeping to the original script, stage directions and character interpretations.” The original script has been cut by half. The stage directions by virtue of this cluttered set, have had to be abandoned. And the character interpretations have suffered from lack of research and understanding. The director has failed the actors in too many ways.

The actors and director may well be talented. In another production they may have shined. But everything fails here.

Reviewer: Catherine Lamm

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